Spring has arrived in Shanghai, the sun is shining at a pleasant 16-22 degrees, flowers are blossoming and all my jackets are packed away in the top of my wardrobe. But when I look around me, something’s not quite right, something doesn’t quite fit the picture of spring.
PUFFA JACKETS! Yes people, the weather has warmed up but yet everywhere I look Puffa Jackets are still decorating the backs of the Chinese like it’s the latest spring fashion trend! Being an Australian, any sight of warm weather means time to bring out the t-shirts and shorts. But it is this Aussie way of dressing for warm weather that is getting me a lot of stares!
Just the other day it was a pleasant 17 degrees (Celsius), I was on my way to work in the mid-afternoon wearing a tank top, cardigan, jeans and…sandals. Everyone was checking me out but sadly it had nothing to do with how physically attractive they thought I was, oh no I’m sure they were only checking me out because they thought I was crazy!
Through the lenses of my over sized sunglasses I could see their glances at my outfit, I could see them checking me out from my sunglasses, down to my tank top, cardigan and then straight to my sandals and my painted toenails. Each person that glanced my way had a similar expression on their face, a mixed look of horror, confusion and laughter. One lady in my apartment complex said to me “bu leng ma” (not cold?) “bu shi” (no), I replied, then motioned that it was hot pretending to fan myself. After all, the weather was far from cold, I was actually feeling pretty warm!
Once I got into the metro station I was hit with a wave of heat! It was boiling hot, and on metro was even worse! Though the temperature was rising outside the temperature of the heating didn’t seem to have changed since Shanghai’s deathly, bitter cold winter. So there I was, sweating, in the metro ready to drink 4 liters of water while all the people around me were still rugged up like it was winter, still wearing their Puffa Jackets! They certainly weren’t squirming in the uncomfortable heat like I was! I couldn’t help but think ‘Is there something wrong with me!?’
A few weekends ago my best friend (who’s Chinese) and I were planning on going out for coffee, but being girls before we could go out we had to decide what to wear. Discussing what clothing would be most appropriate after checking the weather and poking half my body out the window I decided to wear a t-shirt. She was tossing up whether or not to wear a vest over her long sleeve top. “Are you mad!” I said “it’s 19 degrees!”, “No” she said “I’m Chinese.” And with that statement somehow I realised why at this time of year in China I always looked like the odd one out rocking some fashion trend that know one in this country understands at least not in this weather.
Amazingly somehow through the process of evolution the Chinese miraculously don’t seem to feel the heat like us westerners do. In Autumn they feel like their freezing when I simply feel a bit chilly, in spring they still feel that it’s cold when I’m feeling pretty warm and in the summer when sweat is pouring down my face and back and making me feel like I need to take 3 showers a day, just a few beads of sweat drip over their brows.
And really evolution did them a favour, in fact I’m extremely envious. Just think about it, we buy the most expensive clothes in winter, Puffa Jackets cost and arm and a leg compared to a t-shirt, so if you can wear it for 6 months of the year not only are you really getting your money’s worth but you don’t have to buy so many t-shirts that soon enough are just going to be soiled from sweat and ready for the rubbish bin!
So while I wish I had Chinese genetics causing me to sweat less and get my money’s worth out of my winter wardrobe; and despite the stares I get for my ‘inappropriate spring dress’ I’d still much rather walk around feeling un-constricted and free in my t-shirt and shorts instead of my 5 layers and Puffa Jacket. Really, nothing says spring more then the feeling of the (finally) warm sun beating down on your skin turning it a golden shade of tan while you wear your t-shirt, shorts and thongs (Flipflops for you American’s, Jandles for you Kiwi’s). I’ll take my spring in t-shirts and shorts and day of the week! (providing it’s above 15 degrees)
Since first writing this post while sitting on my couch wearing a t-shirt and shorts with the window wide open letting in the cool spring breeze; the weather has warmed up even more! or maybe it was just me? Apparently traipsing out of my apartment complex in a t-shirt and shorts in 22 degrees just shouldn’t be done, in fact it’s more than that, it’s apparently completely CRAZY! At least that’s what all the stares and the people who spoke to me in the shops seemed to think! It’s easy to forget you’re different in Shanghai, no one really stares at you for being foreign, but boy did I get stares that day! Never have I gotten so many stares in all my time in Shanghai! The moral of the story, if you’re planning on wearing a t-shirt and shorts out in public if it’s under 25 degrees then mentally prepare yourself for all the stares and questions you’re inevitably going to get!